Hearing aid problems: how to fix them

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Contributed by Mandy Mroz, AuD, President, Healthy Hearing
Last update 2022-07-26T00:00:00-05:00

Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. Millions of people wear these miniature, custom-made, digitally programmed and personalized hearing solutions every day. If you rely on hearing aids to hear clearly at all times, you know how important it is to identify and fix problems quickly.

Common problems with hearing aids

The four most common problems experienced by hearing aid wearers are:

  • My hearing aids are not producing any sound (or my hearing aids are “dead”)
  • My hearing aids are not making enough noise
  • My hearing aids sound “fun” or distorted
  • My hearing aids are “hissing” or producing feedback

Troubleshooting steps for these common issues are outlined below. We ordered the checklists with the simplest fixes at the top. If you are unable to repair your hearing aids yourself, you may need to consult a hearing care professional to find out what to do to have your hearing aids repaired or cleaned.

My hearing aids produce no sound

  1. Visually examine the hearing aid. Is there earwax blocking the microphone opening or sound exit? Thoroughly clean up any debris. If the hearing aid shows visible damage, contact your hearing care professional.
  2. Make sure your hearing aid is turned on. If your hearing aids are rechargeable, make sure the charger is plugged in and you connect your hearing aids correctly. If your hearing aids use disposable batteries, make sure the battery door closes properly. If the battery door does not close easily, the battery is probably upside down. Remove the battery, turn it over, and try inserting it again. If placed correctly, the door will close easily.
  3. Turn up the volume with your hearing aid app or directly on the hearing aid. If you have a manual volume control wheel, adjust the wheel up and down several times to make sure it is on.
  4. Switch between custom programs or memories. If you have a button to change settings, press it and listen for several minutes to see if it makes a difference.
  5. If the batteries are disposable, it may be time to replace the battery. If you have a hearing aid battery tester, check the voltage of the old battery to confirm it is dead before activating a new battery by removing the sticker. After removing the sticker to activate a new battery, wait two minutes before inserting them into your hearing aids to allow air to activate.
  6. Consider whether the hearing aid may be damaged, especially if you got it wet, as most hearing aids are not waterproof. Contact your hearing care professional for further assistance. They may have drop-in hours or same-day appointments for hearing aid troubleshooting and repair.

My hearing aids are not making enough noise

  1. Visually examine the hearing aids. Is there earwax blocking the microphone opening or sound exit? If you wear a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid with a mold and tube, inspect the tube to make sure there are no cracks, blockages, or moisture drops. Contact your hearing care professional if you need help replacing tubes, filters or domes. They may have drop-in hours or same-day appointments for troubleshooting and repair.
  2. Turn up the volume with your app or directly on the hearing aid. If you have a manual volume adjustment wheel, adjust the wheel up and down several times to make sure you can hear the volume change.
  3. Try another program or another memory. You may have accidentally switched to a different program set differently than your usual program.
  4. Ask yourself if your hearing may have changed. If it has been some time since your last hearing assessment, you may need to schedule a hearing test with your hearing care professional. They may be able to adjust your hearing aids to accommodate any changes in your hearing ability.

My hearing aids sound “fun” or distorted

  1. If you have disposable removable batteries, inspect the battery contacts. These are the small metal pins that connect to the battery when the door is closed. Are they corroded? If so, open and close the battery compartment several times to clean the contacts. Then replace the battery and see if the sound has improved. Your hearing care professional can also clean the battery contacts for you. Do they seem to come into contact with the battery? If they are oriented correctly to make contact, you will likely see very light scratches on the surface of a used battery.
  2. Try another program or another memory. You may have accidentally switched to a wireless setting intended for use with an assistive listening device.
  3. Ask yourself if the hearing aids can be damaged. Contact your hearing care professional for further assistance. They may have drop-in hours or same-day appointments for hearing aid troubleshooting and repair.

My hearing aids “whistle” or produce feedback

An audiologist adjusts a man's hearing aid.
If home troubleshooting does not work,
consult your hearing care professional for assistance.

  1. If your hearing aids are ringing in your ears, remove them and try reinserting them. They may not be inserted correctly.
  2. Lower the volume. If the hearing aids are inserted correctly and they stop whistling when you turn down the volume, there may be too much sound escaping through the vent or around the earmold. You may need to have the fit adjusted by your hearing care professional.
  3. If you think your ear canals may be blocked with earwax, see your hearing care professional or doctor about cleaning your ears thoroughly. This blockage can cause reactions in two different ways:
    —You turn up the volume higher than normal so you can hear through earwax, letting out more sound than usual, or
    —Sound can bounce off any blockage in your ear canal and back up.
  4. If you have recently lost a lot of weight, the fit of your hearing aids may have changed. Your hearing care professional can assess the new fit and determine if they can fix the problem in the office or if you need your hearing aids or earmolds redone.
  5. If you wear a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid with a mold and tube, check the tube to make sure it is securely connected to the hearing aid and mold, and to see if the tube is become brittle, hard or cracked. Each of these issues may result in feedback. If so, contact your hearing care professional for a tube replacement.

When to call in the professionals

If you’ve tried these troubleshooting tips and your hearing aids still aren’t working, see a hearing care professional for help. They may be able to fix the problem at the office the same day. If one or both of your hearing aids need factory repair, your hearing care professional can also take care of that for you. If so, ask your hearing care professional about the possibility of lending you a “loan” hearing aid until yours comes back from repair. Many offices have this service available.

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